Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Going down a dark hall

I'd like to second Elizabeth's hopes (see comments in Monday's post) for a Gothic revival. I've just finished listening to Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, narrated by Tony Britton. When I told friends I was reading it, to a woman they started talking about their adolescent (around 10 up, I think) mania for Du Maurier. I vividly remember reading her short-story collection Kiss Me Again, Stranger (could be a Mary Downing Hahn title) and then the collection Don't Look Now, with the title story providing the story for an astoundingly sexual movie in 1967. Then Rebecca, in college, and that's all.

I can see how Jamaica Inn could be kind of pulse-pounding for a young teen: there's the exciting melodrama involving the drunken, dangerous uncle (the heroine, Mary Yellan, thinks he's a smuggler, but it's worse) and then there's Mary's rather anachronistically saucy badinage with the brooding love interest, and lots of semi-veiled musings on "instinct," which Mary keeps trying to tell herself is "love" but Du Maurier, semi-misogynistically, won't let her. The atmosphere and scene-painting are as good as Rebecca--it's the same landscape (Cornwall) a century earlier.

Is Du Maurier still doing things for teens?

Monday, January 28, 2008

News from the Guide proofreading room

Fall 2007 trends? Pirates, unlikely fantasy heroes, African American historical fiction, kids who killed their friends.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's better than the hanky code!

These are brilliant. Hey, Leila: does this come in H-E-N-R-Y and R-I-B-S-Y?

Does size matter?

Motoko Rich reports that Hugo Cabret is the longest Caldecott winner ever. (Boy, is she sharp or what?) I wonder if any Newberys are longer. Although the neater parallel record would be the shortest Newbery: A Visit to William Blake's Inn?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some people still wear a hat.

Former Horn Book editor Anita Silvey received the Education Publishing Association's Ludington Award "for an individual who has made a significant contribution to the paperback book business." Her confrerees at the award banquet sported the singular Silvey accessory in her honor:

(Anita is second from the left.)

Let us join in the salute. Congrats, A.S.!

Photo by Duncan Todd

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Taking the Children

It's been a while, but Richard clipped an article for me that speaks to us all. It's NY Times movie critic A. O. Scott writing about taking his kids to movies for which they are putatively too young, and he builds his argument from books:

" . . . something in me rebels against the idea that the books children choose should always be safely within their developmental comfort zone. There is pleasure to be found in bewilderment, in the struggle to make sense of what is just above you head, and there is wisdom as well."

Right on. This weekend, we saw three of the movies Scott discusses: Charlie Wilson's War, Persepolis and Juno. The first was great (although I think it would have bored the young me witless); the second, a cartoon, seemed to run out of graphic ideas before it was over; and the third reminded me of why writers should avoid slang in YA novels: it sounds dated already. Juno seems to be the Little Movie That Could, though; what a nice clutch of Oscar noms, yes?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

At least they didn't give it to Mittens

Here's the SLJ article asking if Orson Scott Card's beliefs about homosexuality should have been taken into account when YALSA awarded him the Margaret Edwards Award. I dunno if this is a real controversy; has anyone heard it brought up elsewhere?

Caldecott shout-out

Relive the excitement and hear the applause-o-meter for yourself on our Press Conference Podcast.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Following Me!

I'm home from ALA and the Caldecott considerations only to bump back into the Newbery: Gary Schmidt and a gaggle of his Calvin College students are currently navigating their way to our offices. They are all in town this month for a course on "The New England Saints," (Hawthorne, Dickinson, etc.) so I'm guessing this afternoon's visit must be a very extracurricular activity. Or maybe Gary sees us as his lucky charm--the last time he did this was the day his Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy was named a Newbery Honor.

I did a little bit of podcast reporting from the awards press conference we hope to have up for you by the end of the week.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Winners

Here's a link to our website with information about all the 2008 ALA winners, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine or The Horn Book Guide.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In the February issue of Harper's, Ursula K. LeGuin has some interesting things to say about reading ("reading is active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness--not all that different from hunting, in fact, or from gathering") and publishing ("What's in this dismal scene for you, Mr. Corporate Executive? Why don't you just get out of it, dump the ungrateful little pikers, and get on with the real business of business, ruling the world?").

But until you get your hands on Harper's, take a look at what Groundwood's Patsy Aldana had to say in our pages a few years back: "I would posit that the greatest, most defining boundary in our cozy little world of children’s books is money."

Happy Birthday, Judy!

Martha told me she heard this morning on "Writer's Almanac" that today is Judith Krantz's birthday. (I guess there is hope for NPR.) There are lots of writers I admire, respect, enjoy, but Krantz is the one I love the most. It's not the sex and clothes (although she writes well about both) but the easy, generous, and amused tone of her narration and the ladylike swagger with which she employs four-letter-words. I had the great pleasure of talking with Krantz once for several hours for a Booklist interview, and she told me she had to give up using the c-word after her first novel, Scruples, because it was the one word her "ladies" (as she called her readers) positively hated.

Any Krantz novice should begin with Scruples, of course; after that I would most highly recommend Till We Meet Again (two French sisters, one a pilot and the other a movie star, and their mother, a star of the Paris music hall who becomes a great ch√Ętelaine of Champagne) and Dazzle (gorgeous and impetuous photojournalist with two scheming half-sisters). Any one of them would be perfect for your journey to Philadelphia tomorrow.

Odd trivia: Did you know that Judith Krantz was sister-in-law, via her brother, publisher (and acidhead) Jeremy Tarcher, to the late Shari Lewis?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

From Hazel Rochman:

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic Press) is the winner of the 2008 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The award is presented to a children’s or young adult book published in English by a U. S. publisher and set in the Americas. The members of the Award committee are Ann Carlson, Hazel Rochman (chair), and Roger Sutton.

With comedy and anguish, Curtis tells the gripping story in the voice of smart, funny Elijah, 10, the first child born free in the Buxton Settlement established for escaped slaves in Ontario, Canada, over the border from Detroit. Elijah loses his innocence when he crosses the border on a dangerous mission to the U. S. and encounters the horrifying cruelty his parents have escaped from. Curtis now lives near the Buxton Settlement, and, based on his careful research, he tells of ordinary people who are heroes.

Established by the late writer Scott O’Dell in 1984 and administered by his wife, Elizabeth Hall, the award comes with a $5000 prize. More information about the award and past winners can be found at

Friday, January 04, 2008

Then He Can Paint My Bathroom Blue

I'm told that Eric Carle provides the inspiration for this Sunday's edition of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC at 8:00PM EST. I do like his colors.

Now may we please see Babymouse as the guest judge on Project Runway?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A New List

Claire helps out the reluctant readers this month. You know who you are.

A Great Choice

Jon Scieszka (rhymes with n'est-ce pas) has been named the first "national ambassador for young people's literature."

I talked to Jon last summer about boys and reading; hear all about it in our podcast (scroll down).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

January/February '08 Horn Book Magazine

is out, and the table of contents with links to selected features is up on our site.

The Favored Five

As promised, here are Susan Cooper's and Gregory Maguire's five favorite fantasies as promulgated for our evening at MIT:


Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett (told you she was deep)
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White


The Amazing Bone by William Steig
Father Fox's Pennyrhymes by Clyde and Wendy Watson
The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton
A Step off the Path by Peter Hunt
It by William Mayne

The last makes me unable to resist my favorite Dorothy Parker line. In reviewing Elinor Glyn's steamy It (1927), Parker wrote of the heroine, "It, hell. She had Those."

Happy New Year!

Ah, Provincetown, where the Gays meet the Fisherfolk:

photo by Richard Asch

And where Buster met two of Santa's minions:

photo by Richard Asch

But vacation is O-ver. Now I'm busy getting ready for ALA (any late Caldecott hopes, dreams, and fears you care to share?) and hustling up copy for the premier issue of our new publication, Notes from the Horn Book, an e-newsletter for parents and other adults at the consumer end of children's books debuting in March. If you're interested in being a charter subscriber (relax, it's free) write to Sarah Scriver, sscriver, at hbookdotcom.